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This month in ecology: Oysters, big rivers, biofuels
Date:4/17/2013

reenhouse gases stored in soil. Tilling existing croplands also contributes greenhouse gasses. High intensity agriculture uses fuel for irrigating, fertilizing, sowing, harvesting, and transporting biofuel crops.
  • Water: biofuel processing plants do not use much water, but some of the biofuel crops do. Perennial crops such as switchgrass and mixed prairie grasses do not demand the irrigation, nitrogen fertilizer and yearly soil tilling typical of high intensity corn production.
  • Land use and wildlife diversity: biofuel crops compete with food crops. Demand for biofuels drives conversion of prime agricultural land, expansion into marginal agricultural lands and reopening of reserves. To meet current US energy demand through biofuels alone would require conversion of 41% of US land to corn, 56% to switchgrass, or 66% to rapeseed, but potentially only 3-13% to algae. Drought tolerance, fast growth and pest resistance, traits that make plants fine candidates for biofuel feedstocks, also make them fine candidates for becoming invasive. Some, such as the old world grass miscanthus, are already invasive in North America.

    Ecological Dimensions of Biofuels. Cifford S. Duke, Richard Pouyat, Philip Robertson, and William J. Parton. Issues in Ecology No. 17, Spring 2013.

    The review is freely available and follows a series of reports on biofuels and sustainability from 2010.


    Looking to large tributaries for conservation gains

    On big rivers like the Mississippi, the infrastructure of modern civilization dams, locks, dikes, power plants, cities has made life easier for people, but harder for fish and other denizens of the river. Restoration is a tricky problem. Economic reliance on these big rivers makes fundamental reversals like dam removals unlikely. Conserva
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  • Contact: Liza Lester
    llester@esa.org
    202-833-8773 x211
    Ecological Society of America
    Source:Eurekalert

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